The 3 Biggest Mistakes When Studying for the GMAT

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Biggest Mistakes When Studying for the GMAT

Today’s post comes from Manhattan Review South Africa, a well-known provider of test prep and MBA Admissions Consulting in Cape Town and Johannesburg for Top Business Schools.

So you’re scheduled to take the GMAT. Where do you begin? The first item to address is that the GMAT is a computer adaptive test (CAT) where only one question at a time is presented. Because the computer scores each question before selecting the next one, you’re not able to return to or change your responses to prior questions.

The test is given in English only, and you’re tested on analytical ability, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal skills. The GMAT is always taken on a computer, with the exception of the essay. You’ll have three and a half hours to take the exam, but plan for a total time of four hours should you choose to take the optional breaks. So let’s move on to the three biggest mistakes applicants make when studying for the GMAT:

  1. Not knowing how the test works.

    The GMAT adjusts to your individual ability level, which both shortens the time it takes to complete the exam and establishes a higher level of accuracy than a fixed test. At the start of each multiple-choice section, you’re presented with a question of medium difficulty. As you answer that question, the computer scores your answer and uses it—as well as your responses to any prior questions—to choose which question to present next.

    Correct responses typically prompt questions of increased difficulty. Incorrect responses generally result in questions of lesser difficulty. This process goes on until you complete the section. Then the computer will have an accurate evaluation of your ability level in that subject.

    What if you make a mistake or guess? If you answer a question incorrectly by mistake or correctly by randomly guessing, your answers to subsequent questions will take you back to those questions at your level of difficulty. Obviously, random guessing will lower your scores. So, if you do not know the answer to a question, try to eliminate as many answers as possible and then select the answer you think is the right one.

  2. Thinking the test measures knowledge.

    Our minds have been trained over years of schooling to memorize facts, dates, and theories. Now that we know the GMAT is unlike any other test, we also know that you cannot study for it the same way you study for other exams. It’s not a math or grammar test. It’s a reasoning test -- a test of how one thinks. It measures ability rather than knowledge, especially problem-solving and critical thinking.

    We all know that the best way to learn is to analyze. That should be your focus when preparing for this test. When we analyze, we examine in detail to discover meaning or essential features of an intricate issue by breaking it down into components so as to identify causes, key factors, probable results, and so on. That said, the keys to effectively studying for the GMAT are pretty simple: practice new problems regularly and learn principles, not facts.

  3. Timing versus accuracy.

    Pacing is critical, as there is a severe penalty for not completing sections of the exam. During the exam, the time and number of questions that remain in the section will be displayed on the computer screen.

    At Manhattan Review, we tell our clients, that the issue here is one of priorities. We believe that timing is just as important as accuracy. You have to make a major change in your mindset for this type of test.

    The worst possible theory you can adopt is thinking that you’ll master content first and then figure out "time" later. Deal with timing from the start and you’ll be guaranteed of a better outcome. Remember, the GMAT is a true test of your skill to set priorities, make decisions to smartly spend your time, when to move on to alternate decisions – all characteristics that excellent professionals are expected to possess to advance their career paths.

Lastly, remember to give yourself an adequate amount of time to study. At Manhattan Review, we suggest four to six weeks. You might want to prepare a study ritual. This allows you to study on a regular basis every day. Research tells us that this method can be even more effective if you study at the same time every day. Train your mind to recognize and analyze, not just gain knowledge. Particularly focus on practice tests to zero in on your weaknesses.

We all know – not every person learns in the same way – so adapt to your learning method, for example, if you’re a visual learner, pick up some GMAT DVDs rather than study manuals. The test covers a wide range of topics so make sure you’re prepared for a mental endurance race. Another effective way to prep is to form study groups with friends and try to include recent GMAT test-takers and MBA graduates, if possible, for a more comprehensive and real-life experience so the group is certain to get surefire tips and learn to understand concepts better. Good luck!

We recommend that you attend our free interactive MBA Admissions Webinars where you gain lots of further useful insight into the MBA Admissions process from our consultants who have worked on the other side of the table and evaluated candidates for top business schools. To arrange a free consultation please call +1-800-246-4600 or +1-212-316-2000. Good luck with your conquest for an MBA!

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